Art does not seek to describe but to enact. —Charles Olson

Festival X

August 1-9 and 13, 2013

 Séverine Ballon + Juan Cristóbal Cerrillo + Victoria Chang + David Coll + Evelyn Ficarra + Madeleine Fraix + Melissa Fusco + Nick Gardner + Sean Garner + Heather Gordon + Kurt Isaacson + Tania Lanfer + Michelle Lou + Sarah Miles + Iván Naranjo + J.H. Prynne + Dana Reason + Mike Rosen + Elise Roy + Bruno Ruviaro +
Marcia Scott + Laura Steenberge + Jeffrey Treviño + Erik Ulman + Rachel Vandagriff + Ian Winters

An earlier draft of this account has been unaccountably lost; and at this distance from the festival my memory is faultier than ever. (One thing I no longer remember is the sequence or exact constitution of the excellent meals provided by Michelle, Kurt, and Elise.) In any case, this is only a rough reconstruction; as always, the many and rich conversations that filled out our days can’t be represented here; and apologies for any further omissions or inaccuracies.

August 1
Erik, Marcia, Jeremy, and Séverine had come in early to set up and prepare; and there were several unexpected delays of other participants; so we began intimately, with Séverine demonstrating to us Liza Lim’s Invisibility, and conversations about music (composition and cello technique) and poetry.

August 2
Mornings would begin with readings of poems, usually by Jeremy: today’s offerings were Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Walter Ralegh’s “The Nymph’s Reply,” and John Clare’s “An Invite to Eternity.” Then came the first of several Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement lessons that Marcia conducted; and then a talk by David Coll about his recent music and performances. After lunch Erik talked through the opening of Beethoven’s Second Leonore Overture, as interpreted by Furtwängler. Before dinner, Séverine, who would spend much of the festival laboring at her cello in the barn, gave us a preview of an impressive new work by Rebecca Saunders; and after was a performance by Dana of her evolving improvised work My Hands Are Tied, which was then filmed and recorded in collaboration with Evelyn and Ian.

August 3
The morning reading was Milton’s “Lycidas.” Then came presentations by Marcia, about principles of Feldenkrais and skeletal structure, and Evelyn, about her recent music. After lunch, Laura led interested participants on an guided tour of the vicinity of the ranch; and later in the afternoon Séverine shared, to a larger complement of people than had been available before, Lim’s Invisibility. After dinner came Jeff’s presentation of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes, for which he had assiduously prepared the Poto piano; and then Sean demonstrated his home-made analog synthesizer, teaching us how it works and how to make music with it.

August 4
Morning poems were by Jackson Mac Low and Louis MacNeice; and then came presentations by Iván Naranjo, of his recent music, and by Melissa Fusco, continuing last year’s introduction to analytic philosophy with her work on deontic modals. After lunch Ian shared his recent work with dancers on several continents in real-time digital collaboration. And in the evening came the traditional Poto barbecue, supplied by Mark and Cathy Scott, after which was a small concert in honor of the ranch’s owners, given by Elise, Séverine, and Jeff, of music by Telemann, Messiaen, and Erik. Then Ian set up a video projection into the surrounding woods.

August 5
Jeremy read lyric pieces by two poets most celebrated for other poetic moods—Lord Byron and himself. Then Elise and Kurt gave a joint presentation of their work together as flutist and composer; and then Jeremy gave a reading and analysis of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” After lunch, Victoria discussed Jean Barraqué’s …au delà du hasard, supplemented by Erik on the significance for Barraqué’s work of Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Then Marcia led another Feldenkrais lesson. After dinner came a listening session: Erik introduced a Celibidache performance of the slow movement of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, with a little harmonic commentary.

August 6
Jeremy read from Stevens (but which? Was it “Sunday Morning”?). Then Tania shared recordings of several new pieces; and Marcia led another Awareness through Movement lesson. After lunch Bruno gave an introduction to the principles and workings of SuperCollider. After dinner came musical events: Elise performing Sciarrino, and Bruno and Tania creating a joint installation. Finally was movie night, with a viewing of The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

August 7
Jeremy read from Kevin Davies; to which Nick responded with Stevens’ “Description Without Place,” initiating a conversation about poetry and politics. Then Juan Cristóbal shared his Bachiana and his thoughts about the difficulties of contemporary composition. In the afternoon came the now-obligatory Poto field trip to the Yuba River; and after dinner a presentation by Séverine of (for a second time) the Saunders and of Kristian Ireland’s limit of correction; and then a viewing of the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup.

August 8
The morning poem was Spenser’s “Prothalamium.” Then Erik presented Schoenberg’s String Trio, and Séverine a kind of seminar on her research into new cello techniques, illustrated with examples principally from Mauro Lanza. After lunch came the traditional river reading. Kurt began with examples from Matthea Harvey, whose texts he has been setting; then Erik read Hart Crane’s “Voyages”; Jeremy read Celan’s “Conversation in the Mountains”; Erik read Hopkins’ “That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”; and, finally, Nick and Erik read Valéry’s “Dialogue of the Tree.” As a double conclusion, Séverine and Elise premiered new works written for them by Erik and Kurt; and Jeremy had selected as the Poto play William Blake’s rambunctious satire An Island in the Moon, of which we gave an appropriately uproarious reading.

August 9
Those who were left cleaned up the premises and prepared to depart; a few of us stayed on another night, talking and enjoying La Invasión de los Vampiros, which Juan Cristóbal had brought up from Mexico…

August 13
And, extending the festival proper, Séverine gave a triumphant performance at the Center for New Music in San Francisco of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s solo Sonata, the American premiere of Erik’s L’Extase de M. Poher (here prefaced by a rare [and marvelously idiosyncratic] public reading by Jeremy of his poem, which had been Erik’s source and inspiration), and Kristian Ireland’s limit of correction.

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